Black Mass Rising is one of two new graphic novels from TKO Studios out this week that features incredible visuals and a clever story that features monsters, is set in Transylvania, and blends mythical style storytelling, Christianity, and pure evil. Sounds metal as hell, but is it good?
This graphic novel is all kinds of evil in the best of ways. Set one year after the death of Dracula in Transylvania, a mysterious Healer drifts into town, seeking to cure land and people alike, only some incredibly terrifying monsters are eating the people up. It’s an epic fantasy that’s reminiscent of Dead Souls, Event Horizon, and maybe even a little Exorcist.
If it’s not obvious from that description, the monsters reign supreme in this story. Jodie Muir draws a hell of a monster in a painterly quality that makes some panels and pages seem torn straight from a museum of fine arts. The first monster is a gargoyle-looking beast with giant wings, with other beasts sprouting from trees like a muddy golem. Eventually when the story reveals who is sending monsters to the town, and the villagers to their deaths off cliffs, Muir draws a disturbing creature. You know this creature by its name, but he looks nothing like we’ve seen in the past.
The art is incredibly good at creating a dreamlike experience, too. The color choices and effects draw your attention in a way that suits a horror story like this. I dare anyone to flip through these pages and not feel a bit of dread or even have a nightmare because of it. It’s great at capturing the visual horror and atmosphere of a scene.
The best word to describe the story here is epic, especially when it reaches its third act. There are incredible twists and turns you won’t see coming, great feats of strength, and even a party of heroes who head to vanquish the evil. Theo Prasidis writes a story that’s mythical in nature and complex too. If this tale was told 500 years ago I wouldn’t doubt it’d become a favorite of eastern Europe. There are ties to Christianity, Satan, and Dracula. All told, there is a clever story here that could easily be a beloved film adaptation not unlike Francis Ford Coppola’s Dracula.
With the general visuals looking spectacular and the story itself truly great, there is an issue with dialogue: there’s too much of it. There are scenes that drag on forever as characters discuss simply leaving, or why they must leave, for instance. It grows tiresome and I was consistently fighting the urge to flip past panels and pages. There’s a romanticism in the language that’s obvious, but a faster pace could do this story wonders.
The story is also lettered by Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou who brings his usual high-quality lettering. Little touches like how a word balloon tail dives into a window with characters speaking inside, or the weariness of a character obvious from the shape of a word balloon adds great touches to the reading experience.
Black Mass Rising is a good addition to the TKO Studios lineup of long-form graphic novel storytelling. The story reads like a fairy tale or myth lost to time that TKO has dug up for readers to bring new nightmares in our sleep. Save for some rather wordy dialogue throughout, this is an easy pickup for fans of monsters, myth, and Dracula.
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